Pitt has been recruiting well in the DMV area this year, and that trend continued on Tuesday, as Malik Newton, a running back out of Lake Taylor High School in Norfolk, Virginia, announced his commitment to the program in a video posted on Instagram.
The 5’11”, 223-pound running back holds three-star ratings from 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals, and each of those recruiting websites ranks him among the top 55 prospects at his position in the 2021 class. Specifically, 247Sports has him at No. 53, ESPN ranks him at No. 49 and Rivals places him at No. 18 among 2021 running backs. As such, Newton is Pitt’s highest-rated recruit at the position since Mychale Salahuddin, a member of the 2018 class who transferred to North Carolina A&T.
Eighteen programs offered Newton a scholarship during his recruitment, and he chose Pitt from a Power Five-heavy offer sheet that also included Clemson, Louisville, Maryland, Nebraska, Penn State, Purdue, South Carolina, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Virginia, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
During his time at Lake Taylor, Newton has gotten into the habit of putting on performances that would suffice for a season in the span of 60 minutes. For instance, in Lake Taylor’s 63-56 win over Norview last November, Newton rushed for 399 yards and seven touchdowns on 22 carries. The following week, he scored five touchdowns and came up with three interceptions en route to a 49-20 playoff win over Great Bridge. All told, Newton finished the 2019 season with 2,060 yards and 32 touchdowns on 213 carries, and Lake Taylor went on to win a state title and finish 14-2.
At Pitt, Newton could be the answer to the program’s backfield woes, which began after the departures of Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall following the 2018 season. In 2019, Pitt fielded the 118th-ranked rushing offense in the nation, totaling 118.8 rushing yards per game. That was down 100 spots and more than 100 yards per game from 2018, when the Panthers had the 18th-ranked rushing offense and ran for an impressive 227.9 yards per game.
The team has some solid young talent waiting in the wings behind A.J. Davis, and it remains unclear who will start at running back next season, as nobody has established themselves as a star at the position. So the opportunity to play early at Pitt may exist for Newton if he is able to pull ahead of the pack at training camp.