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LSU defenders aim to force more mistakes by Auburn's Jeremy Johnson

The same problem that scares Auburn fans -- quarterback Jeremy Johnson's recent turnover troubles -- obviously excites the members of LSU's defense. Now it's up to the Tigers' vaunted secondary to force the kinds of mistakes that nearly cost Auburn last Saturday's game against FCS Jacksonville State.

"We know that this guy, if we play our technique right, if we do the fundamentals and have our eyes in the right place, he should be able to throw us one -- if not, hand it to us," said LSU cornerback Dwayne Thomas, whose No. 13 LSU team (1-0, 1-0 SEC) will host No. 18 Auburn (2-0) on Saturday. "We've just got to play our technique. That's what [defensive backs coach Corey] Raymond is stressing a lot this week because he knows this game is going to come down to who is playing the right technique and who has their eyes in the right place.

"This quarterback has a great arm, but we don't know how accurate he is because we haven't seen him in person. With the tight coverage that we play, we're looking forward to him giving us a few."

Johnson has done plenty of that lately, tossing five interceptions in Auburn's games against Louisville and Jacksonville State -- the most by an SEC player in the first two games of a season since Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton also threw five in 2009.

Johnson's decision making at times has been so questionable that, after one interception against Jacksonville State, SEC Network analyst Matt Stinchcomb wondered aloud whether he was experiencing vision problems.

But it's not as if LSU has a reputation as a turnover-generating machine. New defensive coordinator Kevin Steele's bunch did not have a takeaway in last weekend's 21-19 win over Mississippi State, and the Tigers picked off just four passes in SEC play last season.

Steele's defense needs to force Johnson to throw under duress and deceive him with the underneath coverages that led to some of the interceptions.

"We've got to make it tight, make him uncomfortable just like any other quarterback," said LSU defensive end Tashawn Bower, a onetime Auburn commit who said he interacted with Johnson on a recruiting visit to the Plains. "He's still a great quarterback. Despite interceptions like that, we know what he's capable of. I know what he's capable of. I know the guy. They're going to give us their very best game."

Give Johnson credit, too. Auburn fans had to be holding their collective breath each time Johnson put the ball in the air against Jacksonville State after he tossed his second interception of the game five minutes into the final quarter. But the junior completed six of his final seven passes -- including the game-tying touchdown to a leaping Melvin Ray with 39 seconds to play -- as Auburn rallied to win in overtime.

He can be a dangerous passer, as evidenced by his 97.2 Total QBR and 9-2 touchdown-interception ratio during his first two collegiate seasons. And Auburn's offense can still be dangerous, even without a speedster like Nick Marshall under center, because of the running abilities of backs like Peyton Barber and Roc Thomas.

The 6-foot-5 Johnson is more of a pocket passer than was Marshall, causing Auburn coach Gus Malzahn to adapt the offense a bit. This is obviously a transitional period for Malzahn's offense, but LSU's defenders are still well aware of Auburn's explosive capabilities.

Auburn rolled up 566 yards of total offense and had eight plays cover 20 or more yards in last season's 41-7 rout of LSU. Limiting the damage caused by explosive plays will be one of LSU's defensive goals, much like against Mississippi State, which had just two plays break for 20-plus yards last week after generating 10 such plays in its win over LSU last season.

"Jeremy is probably, just like Dak [Prescott, Mississippi State's quarterback], one of the best athletes in the country -- great arm, he's got great legs, as well," LSU defensive tackle Christian LaCouture said. "We've got to make sure we prevent those big plays because he might be rattled a couple times here and there, but he can make a big play the next play, so we've got to be ready for that."