He sat behind then-senior Rafael Little in his sophomore year. His junior year, he was blocked on the depth chart by Tony Dixon, one year older than him.
Now that heâ€™s finally a senior and both those players are gone, Alfonso Smith is still waiting on his chance to be the main man in the Catsâ€™ running back rotation.
â€œYou know, you get frustrated when you come into the season and you have some high expectations and some things donâ€™t swing your way and you see your reps decrease,â€ Smith said. â€œBut everythingâ€™s good now and Iâ€™m fairly healthy, so I should see my reps increase a lot.â€
Smith started the first two games of the season before junior tailback Derrick Locke earned the starting spot. Locke has since seen his snaps increase as Smith nurses an injury. In the Catsâ€™ 28-26 loss at South Carolina on Oct. 10, Smith didnâ€™t get a single carry.
Because his snaps have decreased, Smith has had more time to tend to a torn ligament in his right wrist, his dominant hand, and has been wearing a cast for most of the last few weeks.
Wearing that cast can make him more fumble-prone, so UK head coach Rich Brooks has opted to give the majority of carries to Locke. But as Smith is getting healthy, Locke is becoming banged up. Locke is currently listed as questionable for Saturdayâ€™s game after spraining a knee ligament against Auburn.
When Locke is healthy, though, heâ€™s the clear starter at tailback, UK head coach of the offense Joker Phillips said.
â€œRight now (Smithâ€™s) role is a reliever for Locke,â€ Phillips said.
Locke became the first UK player since 2007 to rush for 100 yards in a game when he racked up 126 while pacing UKâ€™s offense past the Tigers. Locke surpassed 1,000 career rushing yards this season and is climbing his way up the all-time rushing list at UK.
Locke ranks 22nd all-time now, though heâ€™s still more than 2,000 yards behind Sonny Collins, UKâ€™s career rushing leader. Even though Locke still has a long way to go before he can consider passing Collins, Smith thinks itâ€™s still possible.
â€œHe could end up on top actually,â€ Smith said. â€œHeâ€™s just been put in a better situation than Iâ€™ve been put in.â€
Being in front of Smith on the depth chart, who still has a chance of also reaching 1,000 career rushing yards this season, is one thing that makes Lockeâ€™s situation better. Smith has had to fight his share of injuries through his career and few players have been pushed down the depth chart as much as him, but heâ€™s managed to remain upbeat for most of his career.
â€œThe thing we like about (Smith) is that heâ€™s a team player,â€ Phillips said.
If Locke canâ€™t go on Saturday, Smith may get the chance heâ€™s been waiting his whole career for â€“ a chance to be the main main. If not, heâ€™ll still be there for the Cats as a contributor and a leader in the locker room. Heâ€™s still comfortable with his job, even if his senior season isnâ€™t going as planned.
â€œIt just makes it more tough on you to stay motivated,â€ Smith said. â€œBut I know Iâ€™m going to get my chances so I just have to stay healthy and push through to the end of the season.â€