This is the first in a series of stories breaking down film from the members of Pitt football’s recruiting Class of 2021 by Pittsburgh Sports Now analyst Nick Farabaugh.
Malik Newton was one of two commits that Pitt received over the past week. A three-star running back out of Virginia, Newton is another player that Chris Beatty managed to pull in from the area. With offers from Clemson, Penn State, North Carolina, and other top schools, Newton was a highly coveted player that a lot of schools wanted.
So, what exactly is Pitt getting in Newton?
NOTES FROM THE TAPE
• Newton’s build is the first thing that sticks out. He is a really big back. However, there does not appear to be bad weight in his frame. Instead, Newton is chiseled and strong throughout his frame, which has filled out nicely.
• Newton is an interesting athlete. If he has speed, it is more of a build-up speed, but his long speed is adequate at best and he can get caught from behind. However, Newton has great burst and surprising quickness. His burst is what allows him to capitalize on holes and break big runs on film. In those short areas, Newton is blowing right by defenders with his explosiveness.
• Going back to his quickness, Newton is a shifty back for his size. Some of the cuts and moves he is making at his size are really impressive. Not only is he making people outright miss, but he is doing so efficiently because of that impressive lateral agility.
• That frame really helps him when he is met with defenders. Newton is physical and runs through people, but he also does a great job of just outright breaking tackles. His contact balance, in my opinion, is by far his best trait on film.
• His vision on tape seems fine, but there is not a lot on tape of him pressing the line and manipulating defenders at the second level. That is a small, but crucial trait that will determine how good of a pure runner he can be at the next level. It also does not mean that he does not have that in his arsenal, but it just was not shown.
• Open field vision is not a concern for Newton. Once he gets into green grass, he knows how to work angles against the defenders and find the opening to take it all the way.
• Newton has legit receiving chops. It was not just measly screens and swing passes that he caught on film. Newton was going out on slot fades, slants, crossers, and other routes and doing well on them. His route running is anything but polished, but he has soft, natural hands.
• Pass protection is a complete question mark, but given his functional strength as a runner, Newton has the potential to be solid in pass protection.
FUTURE WATCH OUTLOOK
Newton has a fair bit of upside at the running back position. With contact balance, burst, and receiving ability, Newton is building on a really strong foundation for a college running back. There are certainly other factors like his vision and pass protection ability that will determine how much upside he has, but Newton looks like he could be that workhorse type of back that guys like Qadree Ollison were in the past. With that receiving ability, Newton could even be an all-around three-down running back in Mark Whipple’s system. This, overall, was a very nice pick up for Pitt and it is easy to see why so many teams coveted Newton.