ATHENS, Ga. - Quarterback Quincy Carter announced Tuesday that he will forfeit his final year of collegiate eligibility at Georgia and enter the NFL Draft.
"It was a difficult decision to make," Carter said in a statement released by the university. "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.
"I'd like to thank all the individuals associated with the University of Georgia football program. I've learned so much from my college experience, not only about football but about life," he said.
Carter was not available for further comment. When contacted at her Atlanta-area home, Sherry Carter-Embree, his mother, said the 23-year-old quarterback was out of town Tuesday evening. She would not comment on his decision, but she did say she and Carter would set up a news conference in the future.
"We don't have a date for that at this time," she said. "We will have a comment at that time."
Carter informed first-year Georgia coach Mark Richt of his decision with a telephone call Monday night shortly after the pair met for an hour to discuss the quarterback's future.
"I think he was pretty close to making his decision (before the first meeting), but he did want to speak to me before he finally decided what he wanted to do," Richt said. "I just wished him well. I really want what's best for him. If he believes that's what's best for him, then I wish him well."
Richt said he told Carter during their Monday meeting that he would be Georgia's starting quarterback entering spring practice, but Richt also made it clear he didn't want to have to talk Carter into staying.
"He asked if he'd be the starter," Richt said. "I said, `You'll start out as the No. 1 quarterback, and I'll do everything in my power to help you succeed.' If Quincy came back and he wasn't the starter, that wouldn't have been fair to him. He would have been the starter going in.
"The big question I think in his mind was, how quickly could it all come together for him to have the kind of success he wanted to have?"
The success Carter will have in the NFL Draft is also a question mark. The draft will be held April 21-22 in New York, and the deadline for underclassmen to apply is Friday.
Frank Coyle, a professional draft analyst who works with CBS Sportsline, said Tuesday that Carter could be a first-round pick. However, Joel Buchsbaum, a widely respected scout who works for Pro Football Weekly, said Carter's decision was "a very stupid move."
This year's draft is projected to be very thin at quarterback. Coyle said Carter probably will be the second quarterback taken, behind only Purdue's Drew Brees, if Michael Vick stays at Virginia Tech.
"If I was a team and I needed a quarterback, and I was at the end of the first round, I'd be all over him," said Coyle, who operates the Web site www.draftinsiders.com. "There are guys like Bubby Brister and Gus Frerotte starting in the NFL. How could the Atlanta Falcons (with their pick) early in Round 2 not take him."
However, Coyle acknowledged he was surprised by Carter's decision based on his disappointing season this year.
"Between a real poor start and injuries, I thought he would go back for another year. He made a lot of poor throws and bad interceptions early in the season," Coyle said. "I think Quincy is a kid who has all the tools you want in a pro quarterback, but he hasn't put it all together yet for a variety of reasons."
Coyle said Carter greatly can improve his value with a good showing at the NFL combine in March or in an individual workout with a team.
"I think Quincy Carter is a Randall Cunningham-type of player," Coyle said. "He probably wants to have a big March workout. If he has a big March workout, I don't rule out him being the first quarterback taken. He's just got too much athletic ability, and I would expect him, because he's the athlete he is, to really light it up in March."
Buchsbaum doesn't think even a great workout will help Carter's status. He said Carter might not be drafted at all.
"I thought it was a very stupid move on his part after the year he had," he said. "He's a late-round pick or a free agent."
Asked what he thought Carter's deficiencies were, Buchsbaum replied, "maturity, accuracy, reading coverages, consistency of play."
ESPN's Mel Kiper couldn't be reached for comment, but he has Carter listed as the sixth-best pro prospect among this year's junior quarterbacks.
Richt said he explored Carter's draft status but declined to discuss the specifics of what he learned.
Asked whether he thought Carter made a good decision, Richt said, "I don't know. Time will tell. He's definitely a talented football player. It sounds like he's going to be a draft pick and get his opportunity. That's all you can hope for coming out of college."
Carter went to Athens, Ga., with more fanfare than any player since Eric Zeier, and he started with two strong years. He was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 1998 after breaking most of Zeier's freshman passing records, and he threw for 2,713 yards and 17 touchdowns in 1999.
However, this season was a disappointment for Carter. The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder missed five games due to injury, the most serious being a torn ligament in his right thumb that cost him the final four games of the season. He finished the year 91 of 183 passing for 1,250 yards and threw 10 interceptions vs. just six touchdowns. His final pass as a Bulldog was the fourth-quarter interception that sealed Georgia's loss to Florida on Oct. 28.
Still, he led Georgia in total offense in each of his three seasons. He's second in Bulldog history in career pass attempts (853), completions (483), offensive plays (1,104) and total offense (7,053 yards). He finishes his collegiate career ranked in the top 20 in SEC history in offensive plays (20th with 1,104), passing yardage (11th with 6,447), completions (19th with 483) and total offense (11th with 7,053).
Carter was 1-7 in his three years against three of the Bulldogs' biggest rivals - Florida, Tennessee and Georgia Tech.
"It's tough to lose a guy with that much experience who has played that well throughout his career, but sometimes you lose a guy because he foregoes his senior year. Sometimes you lose a guy because he gets hurt. There's a lot of reasons why you lose players but that's just part of football," Richt said. "When you lose players, someone has to step up."
Carter's departure leaves the quarterback job open for next season. Rising junior Cory Phillips and freshman David Greene are the top two candidates to fill the position.