Penn State commit Kiandrea Barker playing final season in home state Arkansas after sitting out last fall in Texas

After being ruled ineligible at The Woodlands High School, Barker has landed in hometown of Newport, Arkansas
Former Beebe running back Kiandrea Barker is transferring to Newport after spending a year in the Houston area.
Former Beebe running back Kiandrea Barker is transferring to Newport after spending a year in the Houston area. / Tommy Land

The one thing that has been constant in Kiandrea Barker’s prep football career is his commitment to Penn State.

The highly recruited senior running back committed to the Nittany Lions in April of 2023 after his sophomore season at Beebe (Arkansas) High School even though many high-profile programs were hot on his heels.

Barker, who is ranked as a three-star recruit by most services and a four-star by On3, has 18 scholarship offers, including Arkansas, Auburn, Colorado, Duke, Florida State, Houston, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Pittsburgh, Purdue, USC, Wisconsin and Southern Methodist.

While he’s stayed true to the commitment, his prep career after the first two years at Beebe has been a carousel that continues to turn.

Barker, who had 1,225 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore at Beebe, transferred to The Woodlands (Texas) High School for his junior campaign but was ruled ineligible by the University Interscholastic League. He announced this spring that he was going to play his senior season at Miami (Fla.) Central High School and join fellow Penn State recruit Bekkem Kritza, but then in May told an Arkansas reporter his plans were to play his final season at Beebe. He enrolled for the winter semester at Beebe and went through spring football with the Badgers and played in the spring game.

He confirmed to SBLive this weekend that he will actually finish his prep career at Newport (Arkansas) High School. Newport is a small town up the road from Beebe that Barker lived in from his early years until eighth grade, when he moved to Beebe to live with his mom.

“I have been everywhere,” Barker said. “It just feels like I have been through hell to try to get on the field. I am glad to be back in Newport where I grew up. The [coaching staff] is glad to have me. It is just weird how it has played out. I don’t even know, it’s weird. It is just how it played out.”

Barker said his ordeal began two days before The Woodlands season was to kick off last fall. Barker said he was at practice when The Woodlands head coach Jim Rapp informed him the UIL ruled him ineligible.

“When I transferred, I didn’t tell anybody yet and I posted that I had transferred and they used an image of me in a Beebe jersey,” Barker explained to Blue and White Illustrated last December. “The head coach at my old school didn’t like that. He wanted me to stay and he was mad that I left. He still wanted me to play for him. I get it, but he had to sign me off. He put that when I transferred that I went for athletic purposes, which got the UIL [University Interscholastic League] involved. 

“In Texas, they don’t play. The UIL is big about recruiting players when you’re not a private school. So that got them involved and I had to miss out on my whole season.”

Barker said he went through an intensive appeal process to obtain a waiver, but the process took the entire season. He was relegated to watching each game from the sideline.

Barker had two options. He could stay and play at The Wooldands his senior season or transfer. He briefly contemplated transferring to perennial Houston-area power North Shore, but wisely didn’t as they were shortly thereafter penalized by the UIL for a recruiting scandal.

He instead headed back to Beebe after Christmas and finished out the school year.In March, it was reported that he was going to join Kritza in Miami, but Barker balked on that decision, worrying that he might be ruled ineligible in Florida, too.

While he finished the school year in familiar surroundings, he didn’t feel comfortable in his return considering the circumstances that surrounded his ineligibility in Texas. Even though Beebe hired a new coach, he decided to transfer to Newport, where he spent his formative years and figured he'd feel more comfortable on and off the field.

The Greyhounds, a Class 3A school, were 6-6 last season.

“I’m telling everyone we are going to state,” he said. “I think I can really help them and put up some big numbers.”

Barker, who is ranked the No. 3 prep recruit in Arkansas by 247Sports, said Penn State coaches have watched on intently as he has hopped high schools and have been supportive

“They just want to get me on the field,” Barker said. “They are fine with everything. They just want to get me [to Penn State].”

In early June, Barker visited Arkansas, which made him an offer in the spring, and then followed with a visit to Penn State. At that point, he indicated he was fully committed to the Nittany Lions and wouldn’t entertain any other offers.

Sunday, Barker said playing his final prep season in Arkansas will most likely entice the Razorbacks coaching staff to take another run at him.

“I’m keeping Arkansas in the back of my head,” he said. “They still have a chance.”

--Nate Olson | | @ndosports

Nate Olson


Nate Olson has covered prep and college sports in Arkansas since 1998. He has managed several newspapers and magazines in The Natural State and has won numerous awards for his work. Nate, who also has six years of public relations experience, has appeared statewide on radio and television throughout his career, and currently co-hosts a high school football postgame radio show.