Jason Knight and Morgan Whittaker have committed their long-term futures to Derby County after agreeing new contracts.
The Academy graduates have put pen-to-paper on new deals which will run until the summer of 2023.
Knight and Whittaker have been regular members of manager Phillip Cocu’s first-team squad in their impressive breakthrough seasons.
The pair, who helped Derby’s Under-18s to make history by becoming National Champions last season, have impressed in making the step-up from the Rams’ Academy system.
Midfielder Knight, 18, has established himself in the starting line-up in recent weeks, while 19-year-old forward Whittaker has also been a consistent member of the Rams’ matchday squads.
The duo are two of as many as nine recent Academy graduates to have played first-team football for the Rams this season, while a number of up-and-coming youngsters have also been in-and-around the squad.
Knight and Whittaker are also two of four Academy products to have made their professional debuts for the Rams so far this season, alongside England youth internationals Lee Buchanan and Louie Sibley.
Reacting to the news, Cocu said: “We’re delighted that Jason and Morgan have committed their long-term futures to Derby County.
“Both players have been with the first-team since the start of pre-season and have shown real progression during that time.
“These new contracts are a reward for the hard work they’ve put in and the progress and development that we have seen from them, but they are also well aware that they must stay on the right path and continue to work hard and be dedicated to what they want to achieve.”
“The philosophy we have at the football club places a great deal of emphasis on the first-team and Academy having a strong relationship and aligned approach to give young players coming through the best possible opportunity in their development,” he added.
Speaking after putting pen-to-paper, Knight said: “The last year or so has been amazing for myself personally and to top it off with a new contract is amazing.
“The club has a lot of faith in the youngsters coming through and that’s exciting.”
He added: “The manager has trusted a number of the younger players in some important games and when you step out on the pitch you just want to repay the faith that he has shown in you.”
Offering his reaction to signing his new deal, Whittaker said: “It’s always an exciting moment to sign a new contract and it shows the faith that Derby County has got in the young lads coming through.
“It gives you the confidence you need that when you go on the pitch every day that the club want you to get better as players.”
He added: “It’s great to sign this new deal but there’s lots more hard work ahead day-in-day-out.”
Republic of Ireland Under-21 international Knight was handed his first-team debut on the opening day of the 2019/20 campaign as a late substitute in Derby’s 2-1 win at Huddersfield Town.
He had been an unused substitute in the Rams’ Play-Off Semi-Final Second Leg at Leeds United last May, as well as the Play-Off Final against Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium.
Knight joined Derby’s first-team squad for their pre-season training camp in Florida and caught the eye of Cocu and his coaching staff.
After being handed his debut the start of the campaign, Knight has gone on to make 18 appearances in all competitions to date.
He has started Derby’s last eight games in the Sky Bet Championship and netted his first career goals by scoring twice in the 2-1 home win against Charlton Athletic at the end of December.
Whittaker, like Knight, joined Derby’s first-team squad in Florida and he went on to make his first-team debut off the bench in the Carabao Cup First Round tie at Scunthorpe United in August.
The England Under-19 international followed that appearance up with a place in the starting line-up against Nottingham Forest in the Second Round of the competition, before making his league bow off the bench at Hull City in November.
Whittaker’s first league start came in the 1-1 draw at home to Sheffield Wednesday in December and he was also in the starting line-up as Derby defeated Premier League side Crystal Palace in the Third Round of the Emirates FA Cup earlier this month.
In total, Whittaker has made 13 appearances in all competitions for the Rams so far this season following a highly impressive 2018/19 campaign.
He scored 24 goals from just 37 appearances for Derby’s Under-18 and Under-23 teams combined, while he also claimed 16 assists, taking his goal contributions for the season to 40.