Panther-lair - Signed: Malik Newton
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Signed: Malik Newton

Pitt needs a boost to its running game heading into the 2021 season, and the commitment of Malik Newton might just be what the doctor ordered. Newton is a bruising back checking in at 6'1" and 215-pounds. He rushed for over 2,000 yards and 35 touchdowns as junior in 2019.

Newton was named Virginia's Class-4A Player of the Year last season and helped guide his team to a state championship. He was unable to add to his prolific career this season, as Virginia delayed high school football until the springtime. Newton won't be around then, as he is planning to enroll at Pitt early and start competing for playing time in his freshman year.

Newton just missed four-star status in the Rivals.com rankings update. He checks in as the 19th-ranked running back in the country, while the top 18 are all at least four stars. Newton is also one of the best prospects in the state of Virginia, and that's been an added emphasis for Pitt with the hiring of wide receivers coach Chris Beatty.

The Pitt wide receivers coach hails from Virginia, and has been instrumental in a couple of recruitments including Newton's.

“He was a big part of it,” Newton told Panther-Lair.com following his commitment to Pitt back in May. “He would call and text every day. We would talk all the time about non-football stuff, football stuff, school stuff. We would FaceTime almost every day. He showed how much Pitt wanted me."

Newton had an impressive list of offers that included Virginia Tech, Maryland, Penn State, Nebraska, and South Carolina. He had always had a strong impression of Pitt, and visited the program back in March of 2019. He spoke to Panther-Lair way back then and had positive impressions of Pitt from the early stages of the recruiting process.

“Pittsburgh is different from every university I’ve been to; when they talk about brotherhood they mean it and stand on it," he said in an interview back in 2019. "And their education is outstanding with the different nationality rooms; [that] is something I would look forward to learning in.”

Pitt had the 13th ranked rushing offense in the ACC in 2020. The Panthers are set to return all five running backs that carried the ball this past season, but aside from Vincent Davis, nobody else really emerged. Given his size and power, Newton should have a chance to come in and be Pitt's thunder to Davis' lightning.