CLEMSON - Marcus Houskin, whose ferocious hitting was the talk of Clemson's
preseason workouts and eventually won him the starting free safety position
just last week, unknowingly became a victim of his own aggressiveness.
Precautionary X-rays performed Monday on Houskin's neck showed a fracture of
the sixth cervical vertebrae, according to team doctor Byron Harder. The
injury was the result of a helmet-to-helmet hit with a Wofford running back
in Saturday's 38-14 Clemson victory at Death Valley.
The vertebrae also was slightly dislocated.
He is scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday - during which a bone from his
hip will be used to fuse the vertebrae together - and is lost for at least
the remainder of the season.
"Fortunately there were no neurological signs or symptoms, and no paralysis
or anything else," Harder said. "The concussion was the main concern during
the game, and after that cleared up he started complaining about his neck. I
examined it and did all the tests you do, and it looked like a sprain."
The sprain diagnosis was confirmed again on Sunday, and might have been left
alone at that had it not been for an athletic department policy in such
According to that policy, any player with a significant neck injury must
undergo a series of x-rays before being cleared to play. Those x-rays were
taken Monday morning, and that's when the break was discovered.
Such precaution likely warded off more serious consequences.
"It had a good way to go before it transected the (spinal) chord," Harder
said. "But there's not a whole lot of room in there....I think of all the
x-rays we've had done over the years that have never shown anything. The
money we spent on it makes it all worthwhile."
Head coach Tommy Bowden said the circumstances surrounding the injury didn't
have the appearance of being serious.
"Not like Kevin Youngblood's (broken leg) sticking out at 90 degrees," he
But the force of contact with the Wofford running back apparently was enough
to cause Houskin's injury.
"(Houskin) and the running back had a collision head on on a sideline
tackle," said defensive coordinator Reggie Herring. "We don't coach head down
(tackling), so I think the bottom line was it was a heck of a collision."
Houskin had been asked to wear a neck brace over the weekend, but refused,
Harder said. Fortunately, he was not involved in any type of physical
activity Saturday night or Sunday which potentially could have led to more
serious consequences from the injury.
Houskin joins wide receiver Youngblood (broken leg) and linebacker Altroy
Bodrick (torn ACL) as Tigers out for the year. Freshman receiver Roscoe
Crosby likely will miss at least the Duke game this weekend with a sprained
knee, and three other Clemson players (Greg Walker, Kevin Johnson and Eric
Sampson) were listed as questionable
Bowden put aside the notion that his team was snakebit, but didn't deny the
emotional toll the injury would take on his team, not to mention Houskin.
"His mother died a year or so ago and he took a little sinking spell there.
But he had bounced back and was starting to really do well academically and
on the field. I don't think I've been anywhere where we've lost three
starters for the year."
With Houskin gone for the season, junior Eric Meekins again moves into the
starting lineup at free safety. He will be backed up by true freshman Travis
Harder said Houskin's injury was similar to the one suffered by former
Florida State and current Carolina Panthers quarterback Chris Weinke three
years ago, meaning a return to the football field is possible.
However, Harder expressed concern that such a decision might not be the best
"If it were my son, I'd recommend he never play again," Harder said. "Being a
defensive player attacking is quite a bit different than being a quarterback
with all that protection. He's going to have a tough decision to make."