There had been some talk and some drill work over the winter to see what Wright's aptitude was for inside linebacker. It looked like a good fit for the senior defensive end. But the move didn't happen until Highsmith tore a pectoral tendon just a couple of days before the start of spring practice two weeks ago.
"Tank's a fulltime linebacker right now," Haynes said. "After spring practice ends, we'll see. The good thing is that we have him on tape at end. We'll probably keep him there through spring."
Wright played inside linebacker in high school, but moved to defensive end after an early try at linebacker in August of his true freshman season. A high ankle sprain in two-a-days put him on the shelf for too many weeks to play that year and resulted in a redshirt. He's been a defensive end ever since.
"I had joked around with Coach (Bobby) Petrino about playing middle linebacker," Wright said of conversations during winter workouts. "Then Alonzo got hurt. I didn't wish anything on him, but at the same time I am going to take advantage of it."
Highsmith will miss the spring. Haynes said there isn't much difference between will and mike linebacker in the new scheme and there could be a spot in the starting lineup for Highsmith and Wright at inside linebacker. Highsmith played on the outside last year.
"Really, those two spots are interchangeable," Haynes said. "So what we want to do this spring is see if Tank can do it."
Wright is all linebacker now, but knows that could change.
"I'm staying at the same weight, around 245 to 250," he said. "I want to be at a weight that I can go back to end and play there."
It isn't easy to carry that weight at linebacker where the running is sideline to sideline and also includes drops into the secondary.
"The transition is going good," Wright said. "I played it in high school so I have that experience. At the same time, this is a different level. It's a lot more cardio, a lot more running. That's the hardest adjustment. I'm learning the pass drops, covering the backs one-on-one and then having to cover the slot guy. That's different.
"I'm not shocked with what has happened. It's a blessing. It's a dream come true and I'm going to try to live it."
Haynes said the reason behind the move was simple.
"You need a thumper at mike linebacker," he said. "You need someone to take on the isolation play. You need a great leader, someone who calls it out. We see those things in Tank.That's some of the reasons, Tanks gives us that."
Linebackers coach Taver Johnson said, "Tank is a natural football player and is doing pretty well. He still needs to get used to the conditioning."
Did he know Johnson wanted a try at linebacker? Did he lobby for him?
"What I heard, he did want it," Johnson said. "He's getting his wish. He is happy. We wanted him there for his leadership and we want to see if he can be a thumper there and also cover backs out of the backfield. He's smart. He seems to have picked it up."
What does Johnson want to see in the scrimmage?
"First, I want to see our guys come downhill," he said. "I want to see who is tough and who can make plays. I want to see passion and enthusiasm."
Johnson sees the basic linebacker skills in Wright.
"He has a natural feel for the game and the position," Johnson said. "He understands how to keep his shoulders square.
"I think he loves to play the position. He seems happy -- when he's got his breath and he's fresh."
Haynes was asked if the defense has been sharp so far this spring. There had been talk that the offense had looked sharp after Tuesday's workout.
"Not in my eyes," Haynes said of the defense. "We have a long ways to go. What we are working on right now is communication and effort."
Haynes praised the defensive front, especially the ends. He said the depth there made it easier to give Wright a try at linebacker.
"We've got numbers at end," he said. "We've got several players there and we signed a good class there. What I'm more worried about is linebacker and safety."
Haynes was asked about depth at safety.
"We are still working on that," Haynes said. "Eric Bennett and Ross Rasner are doing a good job. We are still working on what's behind them."
There has been some hitting over the last two days since returning from spring break.
"It's mainly been the younger guys," Haynes said, who praised Houston Pruitt for "smacking a couple of people."
The Hogs take Thursday off before a planned scrimmage on Friday. Bobby Petrino scrimmages can be lengthy.
"That's kind of normal for me," Haynes said. "I'm used to getting all of those plays. It's time to do it.
"We want to see effort, that's the key thing. When you say the word live, the first thing that goes is techniques and fundamentals. So we want to see that and we want to see communication and running to the ball."