TALLAHASSEE — Florida State defensive tackle Demonte McAllister just smiles when he is double-teamed. It's a sign of respect.
And a challenge.
"I like taking on double teams because that really tells you where you are," the former Alonso High standout said. "When that guard comes down on you and the tackle hits you in the hip, you sling that guard off of you and go after the offensive tackle. If I was 270-275 (pounds), they probably would have washed me out.
"But now (that) I'm 295, almost 300, pounds they don't stand a chance when I get my hands right and play the right technique."
McAllister was a dominating pass rusher at Alonso, recording 30 sacks in his final two seasons. A four-star defensive end, McAllister could rely on his size and quickness to frustrate offensive linemen.
But that changed when he arrived at Florida State. McAllister was suddenly undersized and he struggled to add weight as he moved to tackle. But he benefited from FSU's improved nutrition program and from the hiring of strength and conditioning coach Vic Viloria, who helped McAllister gain weight without losing speed.
McAllister, a senior, is coming off his best season at FSU. As a backup, McAllister recorded 33 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He improved as the season went on, with five tackles apiece in the loss to Florida and the ACC championship game win over Georgia Tech. McAllister also had a sack in the Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois.
He had hoped to carry that momentum into 2013, but a shoulder injury sidelined him in the spring.
"It's been so difficult," McAllister said. "Sitting out the spring made me miss football so much. I had to wear that sling for eight weeks. It's hard to sleep. Coming out here and practicing, my technique is not up to par. I feel it is getting better every day."
FSU needs McAllister in the middle during a transition year for the defensive line.
The Seminoles are replacing all four starters, including ends Bjoern Werner (first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts) and Tank Carradine (second-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers). Defensive tackles Everett Dawkins and Anthony McCloud also moved on to the NFL.
And the players are adjusting to a new scheme. Mark Stoops left in December to take over as Kentucky's head coach, and Jeremy Pruitt (a two-time national champion as an Alabama assistant) was brought in. Pruitt has a more aggressive, blitzing defense.
"Being a fifth-year senior, he can adjust to it," defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins said. "He's adjusting well."
While FSU is replacing all of its starters, tackles McAllister and junior Timmy Jernigan (46 tackles) have a wealth of experience. Mario Edwards Jr. is a sophomore, but played well in starting FSU's final two games. And the other projected starting end, senior Dan Hicks, tried to play tight end but sustained a knee injury last year.
"Everybody has played a lot," McAllister said. "Here at Florida State, we have so much talent. Everybody, even backups, can play. It's not like we weren't getting reps just because we didn't start the game. We might play as much or just as many plays as that starter does."