Hours after a meeting with new head football coach Mark Richt, Georgia junior quarterback Quincy Carter elected to forego his final season and declare himself eligible for April's NFL draft.

Carter made his decision Monday night after being introduced to Richt that afternoon. A formal announcement was made Tuesday.

'It was a difficult decision to make,' Carter said. 'There are so many factors to weigh and you cannot predict what the future will hold either by staying or going. However, after seeking a lot of advice and meeting with my family, I've decided to continue my career in the NFL.'

Carter called Richt Monday night to inform him that he would no longer be a Bulldog. Richt had requested that Carter inform him of the decision before making the news public.

'Like I had said in our meeting earlier, I want what's best for him,' said Richt, who received the call on his first day on the job. 'If he believes that's best for him, then I wish him well.'

The 23-year old Carter left despite being guaranteed the starting position by the new coach.

'I told him, 'you'll start out as the No. 1 QB, and I'm going to do everything in my power to help you

succeed,' ' Richt said. 'If Quincy came back and he wasn't the starter, that wouldn't have been fair to him.'

Carter also passed up the opportunity to work with Richt, a former

quarterbacks coach at Florida State. Under Richt's tutelage, quarterback Chris Weinke won the 2000 Heisman Trophy.

'I would have liked to work with Quincy,' Richt said. 'He's a talented young man and from what I understand a hard worker -- a lot of things that you're looking for. But he's gone now.'

Since his arrival in 1998, Carter had started every game until injuries took a toll late last season. Shoulder and thumb problems kept Carter on the sideline for five of Georgia's 12 games, including the final four. The Bulldogs went 3-2 with sophomore Cory Phillips under center.

Phillips will be one of the candidates to take the position on a full-time basis. Also in the mix will be redshirt freshmen David Greene and Matt Redding.

'I think we'll be looking for an offensive leader,' said running back Musa Smith, who returns as a sophomore. 'Cory was the only one that really got playing time and a chance. We have some freshmen that could take it.'

Although admitting he had a limited knowledge of Georgia's remaining quarterbacks, Richt indicated that the position will be fair game in the spring.

'Anytime a player leaves, it opens up an opportunity for someone else to step up,' Richt said. 'We'll line them up when we start practicing, and we'll see how it ends up. The bottom line is we're going to try to get the best player in the game.'

Richt met with the media Tuesday afternoon before a 4 p.m. introductory meeting with the team. The new coach planned to break the news of Carter's departure, as well as talk about what the future holds.

'We'll talk a little bit about our expectations,' Richt said. 'We'll talk a bit about where we hope to go and how we're going to get there.'

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