By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – After going 2-8 in 2011, the Division II Lincoln University football team has high hopes for significant improvement here in 2012.

(credit: Lincoln University)

The Lions, out of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, were in just about every game last year with four of their losses coming by 12 points or fewer.  And they have some experience as seventeen starters are back from 2011, but they were picked to finish 11th in the 12 team CIAA.

The headlines for this team come from the defense, specifically from their wonderful senior defensive end Tim Green.

A 6’1″, 215-pound native of Fanwood, New Jersey, Green led all of Division II last season by averaging 1.50 sacks a game and that helped him become Lincoln’s first-ever Division II All-American.  He also has been named to several preseason All-American teams this summer.   Lincoln head coach O.J. Abanishe says Green’s dominance on the edge helps open things up for the rest of their defense.

Listen to Matt Leon’s interview with O.J. Abanishe:

“It really ties people’s protections.  Now you can’t just have a tackle out there blocking Tim, you have to have a tackle and a running back or a tight end and a running back to that side.  So a lot of times it’s almost like we are playing 10 on 9 because it takes two people to block Tim.”

Abanishe says they are also working hard to make Green even more dangerous this season.

“Were doing a few things differently this year with him in order to really enhance his pass rushing ability and his ability to get tackles for losses on the run.  To where they won’t be able to tie those protections and they won’t be able to tie those specific blocking schemes toward his style of play.”

On offense, ten starters return from a unit that averaged 18.1 points a game in 2011.

(credit: Lincoln University)

“I told our guys just because we’ve got a lot of experience (on offense), doesn’t necessarily mean that we are going to be an outstanding unit,” Obanishe said.  “What we have to do is draw back from the experience that we had last year and learn from our mistakes and learn from our successes.  So, if we do that we feel like we’ll be alright on offense.”

Abanishe says that a part of that offensive unit really could hold the key to this team breaking through in 2012.

(credit: Lincoln University)

“If our offensive line can have an outstanding season, then we know we will have an adequate running game and that’s the biggest thing on offense.  We’ll also be able to control the clock so our defense won’t be on the field as much.  So if our offensive line plays well, and they’ve done pretty well so far this camp, then we know we can really break open the doors.  We were close in a lot of games last year and beat a couple of teams that we hadn’t beat before in the past.  And we feel like if we would have had an adequate running game last year, we could’ve won a lot of those close games.”

And that lack of a Lincoln running game was indeed a huge problem last season. The Lions averaged just over 34 yards a game on the ground, as a team, in 2011.

Lincoln opens the 2012 season on September 1st, hosting Cheyney.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.