Gwinnett has produced a large number of high-level college football players over the past decade, but Tennessee traditionally has been a non-factor in their recruitment.
Volunteer head coach Lane Kiffin changed that this year.
Highly coveted North Gwinnett offensive tackle Ju'Wuan James committed to Tennessee late Tuesday night, giving Kiffin a major recruiting coup over rivals Georgia (which was in heavy pursuit of James) and Alabama (where the senior initially committed).
"I like the coaching staff, the environment and I just like the feel up there," James said. "I like the new coaching staff and what Coach Kiffin is installing there. He's got a lot of people inspired and I want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of something new."
James originally committed on May 8 to Alabama, joining his North teammate and fellow offensive lineman Austin Shepherd. But the 6-foot-6, 305-pounder, rated as the No. 1 tackle in Georgia by several recruiting services, opened his recruitment back up in September and Alabama didn't make his final list of favorites.
After his de-commitment, he made official visits to Georgia, Tennessee and UCLA before making his final decision this week. He said his final choice came down to the two SEC East rivals.
"It was a pretty hard decision," said James, whose team opens the Class AAAAA state playoffs Friday night at home against Centennial. "I was torn between those two, but I feel like I made a great decision and my family does too."
James' decision gives Gwinnett eight current seniors who have committed to ACC or SEC schools, joining Buford's Jessel Curry (Auburn), Grayson's Shawn Green (Georgia Tech), South Gwinnett's Jonathan Krause (Vanderbilt), Buford's Kolton Houston (Georgia), Collins Hill's Charles Perkins (Georgia Tech), Peachtree Ridge's Brad Roby (Vanderbilt) and Shepherd (Alabama).