Credit Alabama.

The program has done a masterful job of convincing us that receivers blossom in Tuscaloosa at a higher rate than azaleas in Augusta. When you produce 6 first-round receivers in the past 5 NFL Drafts — nobody else has more than 2 in that stretch — and the only Heisman Trophy-winning receiver in the 21st century, you’ve earned that right.

Betting on Alabama receivers to take off seems like as safe a bet as any, and doing so based on the lone bit of live action during an 8-month offseason feels like well-placed optimism.

Yeah … about that.

Last year, we watched Christian Leary tear up the Alabama spring game. He hauled in a 52-yard touchdown grab from Jalen Milroe and looked like he could be the answer in the slot in a post-Jameson Williams/John Metchie world.

Then he played 45 offensive snaps all season and hit the transfer portal after recording 1 catch for 6 yards in 2022.

The year before that on A-Day, it was Agiye Hall. You might remember Joe Tessitore going full Saturday night mode on several plays made by the true freshman in the 2021 spring game:

Then, of course, Hall sparingly played and hauled in 4 catches for 72 yards in a runner-up season. Hall’s most noteworthy moment that season was a drop in the national championship. The following spring, he was suspended and he transferred to Texas … where he also struggled to stay on the field for multiple reasons, including an arrest for criminal mischief. Hall entered the transfer portal for the second time since his spring breakout.

Sensing a theme here?

We’re programmed to think that Alabama’s next great receiver is always on the horizon. But maybe, dare I say, he’s not. Or at the very least, the spring game isn’t where you’ll find him.

Last year was the first time since 2011 that the Tide lacked that stud receiver, and it showed. Far too often, Bryce Young was forced to make something out of nothing, and as a result, the offense was maddeningly inconsistent.

No, I don’t think we can put that entirely on former offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, who left for the same role with the New England Patriots. Don’t forget that Williams and Metchie were studs in 2021 with O’Brien calling plays. In 2022, those elite route-runners weren’t there. They still might not be there in 2023, either. Leary, Traeshon Holden, JoJo Earle all transferred to Power 5 programs while last year’s splashy post-spring transfer addition, Tyler Harrell, also hit the portal.

Given the opportunity both had to catch passes from Young last year, I’m not betting the farm that the next great Alabama receiver will be Jermaine Burton or Ja’Corey Brooks, both of whom had nearly identical production as Young’s primary targets (they averaged about 52 yards per game apiece). Well, check that. Technically, Jahmyr Gibbs was the primary target with a team-high 44 catches. Burton and Brooks had 39 and 40 grabs, respectively. It was the first time in the Playoff era that Alabama failed to produce at least 1 player with 60 catches.

I suppose it’s not impossible that Brooks or Burton will step into that role. Just don’t convince yourself of that based on a spring game performance.

Of course, those 2 don’t have the same offseason buzz as 5-star JUCO transfer Malik Benson.

It was Benson who signed on the dotted line in December and turned heads catching passes for Young at Alabama’s Pro Day. Never mind the fact that he didn’t have a single college offer coming out of high school. He blew up during his 2 seasons at Hutchinson Community College (Kan.), where he broke the school record with 2,152 career receiving yards.

If he does anything of significance on Saturday, you know that’ll just add fuel to the fire, which is already burning coming out of spring camp:

The last great receiver to come through Alabama was Jameson Williams, AKA the guy who wasn’t even on campus during the spring. In a strange way, his emergence set the bar remarkably high for transfer receivers in Tuscaloosa. It probably doesn’t slow down the hype train for some of these guys knowing that all of those other aforementioned recent first-round receivers — along with Amari Cooper, Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones — all emerged as studs early in their respective careers.

We’re programmed to believe that guy is inevitable because up until last year, it was. Even with last year’s disappointing year from the Alabama pass-catchers, it’s probably still a good bet to say at least someone in that group will emerge as an All-SEC stud.

But perhaps the riskier move is picking out who that’ll be, especially if the logic is rooted in a spring game performance.

History tells us that making a few splash plays in April doesn’t exactly mean fall success is imminent. It’s not just an Alabama thing, either.

Last year, the same day that Leary delivered a stellar showing at A-Day, Arik Gilbert was the story of Georgia’s spring game for the defending national champs. He had 2 touchdowns and looked every bit like the highest-rated tight end recruit ever, which he was when he signed at LSU. Gilbert’s G-Day showing was treated by many, myself included, as a sign that he was ready to contribute after a redshirt year away from football in 2021. Then, of course, Gilbert couldn’t crack the rotation and he transferred to Nebraska after a season with 2 catches for 16 yards.

I say that not to knock Gilbert, Leary, Hall or any other pass-catcher who stole the show in a spring game. And to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with feeling encouraged by seeing something positive in that controlled setting.

Just don’t let your excitement reach Tessitore levels until it counts.