Harrison Smith certainly flourished once Kelly and his staff arrived. Eifert, Zack Martin, Schmidt, Riddick, and several others far surpassed Signing Day expectations. No one can claim no players have developed.
Here's where development has been an issue:
1. Quarterback play has been inconsistent, at best. Kelly got nothing out of Crist or Hendrix. I think he got as much out of Rees as could be expected, but at times erred in the share of the burden he placed on Rees's shoulders. Golson has been way up and way down. Five years in, we're still blaming QB execution for our problems.
2. Our running game is mediocre. This is more of a scheme problem than anything, but our run blocking is pretty weak.
3. Safety play has been an issue for awhile. This is not strictly a development problem, as horrible recruiting has certainly played its role.
4. Tackling has improved since Weis's era, but it really broke down this year.
5. Special teams have, for the most part, been putrid.
In addition, development also extends to the development of his players as student-athletes. Most have graduated as fine young men, as has always been the case at ND. I am concerned about what seems to be an uptick in off-field issues. The starting QB cheated and was booted for a year. He returns, and five teammates are lost for the season for the same type of problem. We've had some unwanted attrition, as well.
We can call of this whatever we want. A semantics argument is pointless. By reason of identification, recruiting, culture, development, and/or bad luck, we have not realized the across-the-board improvement we needed to get from the Weis level to the championship level. In too many spots, this team is simply not good enough.