Alfonso Smith went into the season as Kentucky's starting tailback, but a thumb injury and Derrick Locke's rapid recovery from knee surgery has kept him from having the breakout senior season he had hoped for. Smith has worn a splint on his right thumb the past two weeks, and the Kentucky coaching staff has been reluctant to use him because of ball-security worries. But with Locke nursing a strained medial collateral ligament, Smith might be in for a heavier workload against Louisiana-Monroe. Smith talked this week about his situation.
Question: Has it been frustrating mostly sitting on the sidelines the past two weeks?
Answer: It's been very, very difficult. I want to carry the ball. But there have been some close games, and ball security is very, very important so I understand where the coaches are coming from in not putting me in there. I wouldn't want to put the ball on the ground in a critical situation.
Q: So you've been working on carrying the ball in your left hand?
A: Yes, and it's different when you've been doing everything with your right hand your whole life. When you carry it with your left, you don't feel as protected as you want to be. When I'm running on the right side and I'm carrying it with my left hand, you can get creamed. Plus I can't stiff arm, and that's one of my strongest moves. But I do feel very confident that I can hold on to the ball.
Q: You could have an increased role this week with Locke's strained knee. You had two carries for 20 yards against Auburn. Do you feel like that should ease some of the coaches' concerns?
A: I've been getting a lot more reps in practice this week, and I've just got to be ready. In the Auburn game, I was just waiting on my chance to carry the ball because I knew I had to prove to them that I could hold on to it and make some pretty good runs, and I feel like I did that."
Q: You had high hopes coming into your senior year. Now that it's halfway over, what's your mind-set?
A: I'm focused on the second half of the season. I'm not happy with what has happened the first half, but I've got to keep it moving and continue to work hard.